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Sick Leave Bill Not Backed By Quinn Over Economy Concerns

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In 2010, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the economy was too weak to support making city businesses provide paid sick leave for their employees. But as more pressure comes down on Quinn this week to support it, economists are unclear on whether or not the economy has improved since then. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

In 2010, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn did not back a bill that would make city businesses provide paid sick leave for employees.

"We tried to get to a compromise where we could expand benefits without putting small businesses at risk of closure," she said back then. "We were unable to do that. That is my position today."

Quinn's position now hasn't changed. A veto-proof majority of the City Council has signed onto a bill to require paid sick leave. But the speaker hasn't backed it, citing the economy.

A presumptive 2013 mayoral candidate, Quinn said she will continue to revisit the proposal, taking Main Street and Wall Street's temperature. But she has given no timetable for reconsideration, not even to the proposal's sponsor, Councilwoman Gail Brewer.

"I do not have a concrete number, no," Brewer said. "To her credit, we meet on a regular basis to go over the state of the economy."

Like the speaker, economists don't have a concrete answer on how much the economy has really improved.

The state reported on Thursday that the city's unemployment rate was at 10 percent, which meets recession levels.

But economists at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics point to other figures.

Since Quinn's announcement, New Yorkers are getting paid more and more people are in the workforce.

"For many small businesses, it is improving," said Bruce Bergman of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "We have seen an increase in the pace of hiring amongst certain industries, such as retail trade and the tourism industry."

Economists say that no matter what, sick leave will come with a cost.

"For most small businesses, it's important to remember that most cost increases get passed on to customers," said Joseph Foudy of the NYU Stern School of Business. "Anything you do to increase the cost of employees, in most cases, will increase the cost of the goods they are selling."

But others say that these businesses may break even and then some if they provide paid sick leave.

"We have a lot of evidence that suggests that there are benefits to businesses like lower turnover and reduced contagion of various illnesses," said Kevin Miller of the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Supporters of the sick leave legislation continue to argue that it stands a chance. And Councilwoman Brewer says she continues to work with the speaker on additional amendments.

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